Comparing the response to the recent BLM protests and the scenes last night (06/01/2021), as pro-trump groups made their way into the Capitol building, the reactions don't seem to be proportional. There are pictures of people sitting unhindered in senate chamber. Forcing their way in disrupted the confirmation of Trump's successor, Biden.

What was the reason for this relatively sedate response?

I'm thinking either it came from lessons learned after the disproportionate police response to BLM so things are toned down or perhaps Trump has some influence on the level of force allowed.

Was there a specific order to act differently?

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    While this is an important question to ask, I doubt that we will get a good answer that soon. It might take a couple days or weeks until yesterdays events are investigated far enough that anyone can tell if it was malice or incompetence to underestimate the insurgents like that.
    – Philipp
    Jan 7, 2021 at 12:18
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    There will be investigations into this. Let them happen. Jan 7, 2021 at 12:35
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    It would also be worth comparing to the anti-lockdown protests in May; bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-52496514
    – Jontia
    Jan 7, 2021 at 13:48
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    @Philipp: On the contrary. While we don't have the full details, it seems obvious that this was Trump's attempt at a coup, since he was the one who incited the insurrectionist mob (NOT "protestors") to attack the Capitol with the specific aim of forcing Congress to use those supposed alternate electoral votes to declare him President. Obviously he would not order National Guard troops to stop what he started. It was only Pence and others who sent in the Guard.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 7, 2021 at 18:49
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    @eyeballfrog, tear-gassing people because Trump wanted to pose outside a church.
    – Mark
    Jan 7, 2021 at 22:23

1 Answer 1


I'm thinking either it came from lessons learned after the disproportionate police response to BLM so things are toned down

It appears that this is one reason for the muted response to the storming of the US Capitol. A Washington Post article describes how "Pentagon leaders were still smarting from criticism of their role in the Trump administration’s outsized and militarized response to protests in the capital following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis."

The article says that top Pentagon officials stated earlier this week that law enforcement officers would be deployed away from the Capitol to avoid any scenes like those of last summer:

With those events in mind, top defense officials specifically ensured that the 340 members of the D.C. Guard whose activation were requested this week by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser would stay away from the Capitol to avoid the poor optics of uniformed military personnel and Humvees flanking civilian protesters.

One senior U.S. official told The Washington Post on Tuesday, ahead of the demonstrations, that at the Pentagon, “everyone has got a lot of scar tissue and a lot of PTSD from the domestic unrest of the summer” and didn’t want a repeat. The official added, “We’ve learned our lessons and will be absolutely nowhere near the Capitol Building.”

In addition, it seems the Capitol Police had only prepared for peaceful protesting and did not anticipate the violence that occurred, as described in a Vox article:

But despite clear warning signs from Trump and his supporters — and the fact that city officials were on high alert — Capitol Police did not prepare for the size or violence of the crowd. Relaying conversations he’d had with police officials, Rep. Ryan told reporters the threat assessment done by law enforcement seriously underestimated the potential threat.

“Initially, it was that there wasn’t going to be any kind of violence anticipated,” Ryan said. “First Amendment protests, pretty vanilla, maybe some dust-ups ... but absolutely nothing like this.”

Police set up only low barriers around the perimeter of the building and were wearing ordinary uniforms instead of riot gear, the Post noted.

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    Updated to include the Capitol Police. Jan 8, 2021 at 0:13
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    This doesn't take into account the reaction to anti-maskers (generally white Trump supporters) storming state capital building in May. Which also received a low-key response. The much more obvious conclusion is that events attended by African Americans draw a bigger response. To suggest these are lessons learned ignores how the response was increased from May to July and then decreased again. Or suggests someone's not great at learning what the lesson actually is.
    – Jontia
    Jan 8, 2021 at 9:17
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    And Ryan's statement is pure nonsense. The intention to push things to violence has been clear online for weeks, Buzzfeed. While internet bravado and actions do not always match up to call this "vanilla" is a fairly Freudian slip.
    – Jontia
    Jan 8, 2021 at 9:22
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    to add to @Jontia's point, the relevant part of this article supports the notion that the difference in responses is only due to the presence/ absence of african americans in the crowd Jan 8, 2021 at 16:33

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